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Godfoss Falls, Rainbow Church, and Hell's Kitchen

Day 4

Ooof, getting up this morning was rough to say the least, I was still tired, my body was sore, my blisters from the day before felt fantastic {heavy on the sarcasm} but lord, the view outside of our tent in the morning was fantastic. I couldn't make this up if I tried...we were literally camping at the foothills of a mountain.

We hopped in the car, drove for just a bit, and then decided my need to put my feet in the Arctic Ocean were just too overwhelming so we stopped and did just that {side note....I have NEVER parked on the side of the road in so many random places as I did in Iceland!} and do you know what, that water was cold as *%#$...shocking I know! With that mini adventure out of the way we started driving and within an hour we hit a waterfall that we just couldn't pass up! It was decent sized, perfect rocks for climbing, a teeny parking area, and just begging us to climb and explore...so explore we did!

Next stop left us in the little town of Egilsstaðir {ok let's be real every town in Iceland is little lol} I'm not sure what we were expecting to find here, but we re-fueled, grabbed 2 hot bowls of lobster soup at a small cafe, and were back on our way. The town Seyðisfjörður was next on our list and one that Tina was super excited about! It was the most picturesque little town with a waterfall just outside of town and their famed rainbow road leading to the cutest little blue church you ever did see!

Our evening rounded out with checking out Rjukandafoss waterfall {I still may never know how these sheep got so stinking close to the waterfalls here lol}, the Viti Crater {reminded me a lot of the crater we saw earlier on our trip} and a stop in Hell's Kitchen just outside of Mytavn. 
So like good little travelers, Tina and I did some research on places before we went to Iceland and discovered this place called Hell's Kitchen {or Namafjall to the locals}was a popular place to check out. It was described as this "high temperature geothermal area with fumaroles and hot pots. At the depth of 1,000m the temperature is above 200C"...If this means more to you than it did to me, congrats, but honestly we had no idea what to expect. So, let me break it down into simpler terms of what we saw. The ground was covered in bubbly, gloppy, muddy pools. The pools were turning and gurgling, and bubbling like out of a si-fi movie, and the whole area stunk horribly like sulfur. Like I had to cover my nose and mouth the whole time and still had to go sit in the car for a bit because I thought I was going to get sick. Interesting area, sure...would I visit again, maybe with a gas mask. 

Goodnight Mytavn. Goodnight Iceland. Goodnight people snoring in the AirBnB room next door! {click the AirBnb link to check it out yourself and save money on your first booking!}

Day 5

And here is when I'm going to do a photo dump on day 5....because let's be honest, most of us skip over 1/2 the words on blogs anyways ;)

Lava fields and angry sheep in my way {or at least I assumed his horns meant he was angry!}

 Attempted whale watching in Husavik, canceled due to fog led us to the coolest whale museum and exploring this teeny little sea-side town!

Godafoss Waterfall...like the Niagara Falls of Iceland; truly spectacular! 

These turf houses were the funkiest little things I've ever seen! Built entirely out of peat and grass. 

Reynisfjara ​and Falljokull ​Glacier Hike

Oh Iceland, how you've enamored me! Guys I can't make this stuff up, this country is downright BEAUTIFUL! If you happened to miss out on the beginning of Tina and I's trip you can check out the waterfalls of Day 2{here} and Day 1 and the Golden Circle {here}

Our day 3rd day in Iceland from Vik to Hofn might have been one of my favorite days in Iceland!! We started out our day at the Reynisfjara Basalt Stacks that are affectionately nicknamed "Giants Playground" and boy, they did not disappoint. At first we were quickly enamored by the fact that the sand was black on the beach, but as we walked further on the beach we saw the basalt columns. They looked like huge stacks of Legos forming a cliff along the edge of the ocean. Not only were they beautiful to look at, but also a ton of fun to climb around! A short 15 minute drive along the coast later, we found ourselves in Vik at the Blacksand beach. The sand here, much like the first beach, was also black but now it was also very fine and soft. Both beaches provided amazing views of the ocean and coast line that Iceland has to offer along with mesmerizing black footprints left in the sand!

Our next plan stop was at Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon about an hour away, but as a Iceland likes to do, we were provided with several pit-stops on the way. First stop was the most amazing flower fields; as we were used to driving and looking at the coast line, cliffs, or rocky terrain we were caught off guard when we were greeted by fields of small purple flowers as far as the eye could see. Naturally…we had to stop for photos! 

Next up for pit-stops we had no idea what it was, but we just knew it looked weird and had to stop. As we were driving we noticed hundreds of stacks of rocks along the side of the road about 6 to 12 inches tall. After stopping we found a sign that explained what the stone stacks were from years ago when travelers were asked to place a stone on top of others to wish good luck to the farmer who would once lived in this area. As years went on the government moved more stones to this area to help travelers more easily put stones, granting good luck, and it is now become a small roadside attraction where people can play with stones and grant good luck. Needless to say i’m still waiting on my rock luck to kick in!

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

Our next stop for the day was at Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, and to say it was breathtaking was an understatement! This canyon, they believe, was formed more than 9,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age but has since been covered in lush green grasses and flowing water. Tina and I walked around this area for a while just admiring the views from all the different angles, it truly is amazing all the different land forms that are in such a tiny country.

Our next stop, and hands-down my favorite afternoon during my time in Iceland, was the Falljokull glacier that Tina and I had signed up to hike the day before with Icelandic Mountain Guides. We met at a small lodge near the base of the glacier where we were paired with our guide, our hiking gear, and the four others that would be hiking with us. The day was the first dry and sunny day since we had been in Iceland and we couldn’t have asked for a better guide or weather for our hike. What we signed up for was a three hour hike that ended up closer to five hours by the time we return back to the lodge but it was the most amazing of experiences! Hiking along the ice, seeing the cracks and small streams throughout the glacier, learning about and then seeing a waterfall with in the glacier, drinking water that had been frozen for thousands of years, and taking in all that the glacier had to offer was truly an amazing and unforgettable experience! By the time we took off our crampons (shoe spikes) and returned our ice picks we were beyond tired, and once taking off my boots in the car I quickly realized why my feet had been hurting...we had hiked enough I had literally rubbed them raw and bleeding in several places....but I would do it again in a heart beat!!!

At this point we were exhausted and I would like to say that we had a nice warm bed waiting for us five minutes from the foot of the glacier, but this my friends, could not be any further from the truth. Because Tina and I had booked all of our accommodations in advance (and our glacier hike a mere 24 hours before hand, we quickly realized it was 7 PM… Our accommodations were almost 3 hours from where we currently were… we had three destinations we wanted to see on the way there… AND we did not have a nice warm bed for the evening. Out of all days, tonight was the night we had chosen to stay at a campground.

We continued along Route 1 to Glacier Lake, Glacier Lagoon, and Diamond Beach before finally pulling into our gorgeous campground around 1am. Sore, exhausted, hungry, and exasperated (we looked for over 30 minutes to no avail for our campground and hadn't really eaten dinner yet at this point...thank goodness for finding a kettle at the campground and a nice cup of Ramen noodles at 1:30am inside our tent!) But we crashed, warm, tired, with full bellies, but most of all happy!

Iceland Selandjafoss & Skogafoss Waterfalls

Iceland Day 2 - You surely no how to not let a girl down!

After our first day in Iceland {read about it HERE if you missed it}, Tina and I were ready to hit the ground running for day 2! {Ok I'm not going to lie we were a little on the sleepy side, but we quickly discovered that miles of hiking each day would just leave us really ready for sleep each night!}

Our first intended stop of the day was Selandjafoss falls located in the Southern region of Iceland and right off of Route 1 that we were taking around the entire island. This waterfall drops over 60ft into the Seljalands River and has a small cave behind the falls that you can walk through. As Iceland would teach us though we can never drive straight to a destination because, well....Iceland! On our way we passed this huge green hill dotted with the shaggiest sheep I ever did see. We drove about 60 seconds further until they got the best of me and I turned around destined to get some amazing shots of these sheep up close! {little did I know is all I had to do was wait until evening time when they would frequently cross the road in front of me causing me to slam on my breaks multiple times!}

Selandjafoss Falls

Eventually though, we did make it to Selandjafoss and to say it didn't disappoint is an understatement! The falls were massive, the walk behind cave was absolutely unreal, the path leading to several other smaller falls was beautiful, and we were never happier with our full-body, waterproof outfits {check out these amazing pants & jacket here!} than after venturing through these falls!

Selandjafoss Falls

Next on our day 2 bucket list was Skogafoss falls {we quickly realized that the word foss in Icelandic meant falls...as we were to see a ton of them over the next week and a half!}, again located just off of Route 1 and incredibly easy to find. This waterfall was about the same size as the previous, but situated differently in that you could walk right up to the base {we did, as in boots in the river up to the base!} and climb a set of steps that took you right to the top {we did!}.

Skogafoss Falls
Though these waterfalls were magnificent though when we finished with Skogafoss we were done with falls for the time being! Today was the rainiest day we had in Iceland coupled with the cold and climbing behind, on top of, and in front of falls for several hours we were cold, wet, and hungry and couldn't wait to peel off our wet layers and dry off for a bit!

Skogafoss Falls
Not more than 30 minutes down the road though we stopped at our next marked location of Solheimajokull  Glacier having ZERO idea of what to expect. We found a parking lot. There were also some small cabins so we decided to investigate further. We quickly found out that the cabins were actually small offices that you could book hikes onto the glaciers, having not realized this though we were in not situation time wise to get in a glacier hike today AND get to our lodging for the night. Tina was even further crushed when I shared that I intended on doing a glacier hike after she flew back home. Now it was game on time. We talked to the guide for a bit and learned that they would also book us a hike for further east into Iceland (the direction we were traveling, so we quickly crunched some times and booked our tour for the following day.

Solheimajokull Glacier
Not to be defeated by Solheimajokull  Glacier though we walked past the little cabins for 15-20 minutes though, and guys...I SAW MY FIRST GLACIER! Like never in my life did I sit there and contemplate the existence of glaciers or where I might ever see one, but right there in front of me...a glacier...so I poked it, and then we left :)  {kind of like when I poked the pyramids in Egypt and one poke also wasn't enough there!}

30 minutes down the road we had every intention of checking out Dyrholaey as well. It was boasted to be this beautiful rock arch in the middle of the ocean, but sideways heavy rains, foggy conditions, and the cold had other plans for us. We squinted through the haze, checked out what we could see of the arch, and said next time Iceland!  Dinner that night at a local brewery {umm hello $20 for a burger and fries} never tasted so good as we sat in a warm pub surrounded by locals screaming at the World Cup game going on falling more in love with Iceland each day!

Dyrholaey Arch

That night we stayed near the small town of Edinborg in the cutest little single room cabin that I have ever seen, nestled at the foot of a small mountain, where Tina and I slept like babies!

Iceland's Golden Circle - Self Guided Tour

Oh Iceland, what have you done to me?! Who in their right mind leaves sunny 85º Ohio and heads to “summer” in Iceland with highs of 55º on a good day? I’m still not sure, but it only took 1 text from my Taiwan travel buddy Tina and a few hours in Iceland to convince me that I had most definitely made the right decision; this country is beyond captivating!!

Tina flew from Jersey and I from Ohio and we met bright and early around 8:30am at the Reykjavik airport in Iceland without a clue in the world what would come next! We grabbed our WiFi hotspot for the week from TraWireheaded to Sixt for our rental car, ran quickly into Bonus ( a local grocery chain) and we were on our way! Iceland Golden Circle, here we come!

The Golden Circle Iceland is a circular stretch of road around 3 hours long that is a popular tourist destination due to all the “Icelandic” things that lie along this loop including waterfalls, a geyser, continental faults, and much more. It is a common day trip for tourists who have only several hours as a layover in Iceland or whom don’t quite want to drive around the entire island (we defiantly had more than a couple of hours AND did drive the entire island...but still went for the Golden Circle as well!)

We were hardly 30 minutes outside of the city before we made our first impromptu, side of the road stop (1st of about 5,000 of these stops!) to see some Icelandic horses...little did we realize at the time that we wouldn’t be able to drive more than 20 minutes for the remainder of the trip without seeing more horses!

Horses aside, we made our way to Pingvellier National Park where we were greeted by large lava formations and an impressive continental divide that has created a small canyon through the middle of the rocks. We also checked out our first waterfall {Oxarafoss} of the trip (little did we know that this was only the first of 86 such falls that we would encounter over the next 10 days!). 

Our next stop around the circle was hiking to Brurfoss Waterfalls, I’m not sure if this is a common stop along the Golden Circle Route or not seeing as most other things were convenient “side of the road” type of stops and this was more of a “2.5 hour hike to the falls” type of stop. But, h.o.l.y m.o.l.y was it worth it {{I may have ended up with my boot in the mud up past my ankle, a sopping wet sock, and a Nikon camera lens face first in the mud…but lordy was it a fun time!}} On our hike back to the car we stopped by yet another field of horses for more pictures and imagine our surprise when 2 walked right up to us and let us pet them!!!

Our next pit stop included a late dinner in Haukadalur at the famous Stokkur Geyser along with of course watching the geyser shoot off several times, what a fun experience to watch! After a bit more driving our last stop was a 2-for-1 deal with checking out the Keio Crater along with experiencing our first night of Midnight Sun. The crater is a ginormous hole made from a magma chamber that collapsed and then filled with the bluest water I have ever seen! Midnight sun on the other had takes place in Iceland during the peak of summer when the sun doesn't set until 11pm and rises around 3am and leaves 4ish hours of dusk outside, never truly getting dark {{I didn't see it dark outside once during my 10 days in Iceland!}}. On this day we stopped at Keio Crater at 10:45pm and had no issues getting around or seeing anything!

A bit more driving for the night and we made it to our first VERY well deserved bed for the evening in Selfoss booked through AirBnB {click this link to save on your first stay with AirBnB}.

Day one in Iceland is officially in the books! Tired, sore, and ready for bed, but only with the happiest of minds!

Dinant, Belgium - a Belgian Fairytale Town

Coming “home”? {can we call Brussels my home base for this trip?!} the previous night I was on such a high from a fantastic 3 days in Paris and I was pumped for whatever my last day had in store! Since the get-go I had been planning on doing Luxembourg on my last day so I’m typically Tracy fashion I got in from Paris, grabbed some fresh Belgian fries and people watched in downtown Brussels until late into the night before heading back to my hostel to plan for the previous day (have I mentioned that I’m a procrastinator?!) I had heard mention from other travelers that Luxembourg was a hefty day trip but I still thought it was doable. I started checking online and realized that not only was it more than $60 round trip to go to Luxembourg from Brussels, but it was also just over 4 hours each way; so 8 hours total in a train on my last day in Europe...that didn’t sound great. But to be honest I felt like I had covered much of Brussels already. So, back to the drawing board. I contacted my best friend Google and started trying to piece together my final day in Belgium. 

And then I saw it, the picture that caught my attention looked like a real like fairy tale picture. I couldn’t really find much other information on the small town though other than seeing that it was tiny and really had no public transportation other than a train that could dump you at the north end of town that I could snag for only a couple of bucks each way. SOLD...I was going to Dinant in the morning!

I went to the train station not too far from my hostel and asked the man behind the counter for a round trip ticket to Dinant for the day and he asked me twice if Dinant was the correct town and then if I knew someone there (I was beginning to doubt my decision at this point!) I hopped on the train & a quick nap later, and I was in Dinant....umm ish. I started walking, and then I found the actual town. O.M.G. it was BEAUTIFUL!

First stop for me was checking out the inside of the beautiful, town center; Notre Dame de Dinant, and it most definitely didn't disappoint! And lordy, the stained glass in this church is one of the largest and most impressive in Europe!

The town was so pictuesque that I spent the next hour or more just walking up and down both sides of the river than ran through the town. It's a small enough town that I was easily able to walk from one extreme of the town to the other side. 
 Flags from European nations flanked both sides of the main bridge in town providing not only a colorful focal point, but also a great landmark in town as well as a beautiful backdrop for photographs!

Next on my list came to tackling the Citadel that was situated at the top of the large "hill" directly behind the massive church. If you look closely in many of the pictures you'll see it taking up most of the hilltop. Once I purchased my entrance fee and assured them that I'd take the stairs instead of the lift {totally worth it for the views && bragging rights alone ;)  } I began my climb of all 400+ steps to the top of the hill where the 100 year old Citadel stands. 

 Though the Citadel itself wasn't anything overly impressive, the views from the top and the walk up were beyond breathtaking {also...they literally took your breath away after all the climbing 🤣}

The remainder of my afternoon was spent walking out of town to an underground cave where I was able to tour the cave and the rock formations & crystals inside, checking out an old brewery in town, as well as the old university on the other side of the river.

Hands down though, at the end of the day as I was taking the train back to Belgium with a happy belly and a happy heart, I couldn't have been more pleased with my impromptu trip. Dinant, you absolutely blew me away!

I got back to Brussels late in the evening, used the last few euros I had for one more go-round on the fries & beer and headed back to the hostel to pack. My 10 day Belgian adventure was coming to a close, and I had a classroom full of littles waiting for me back in the States.

Until next time Belgium!